July 15, 2020

To All Members of the MBUSD Community,

I hope this email finds you safe and enjoying one of the most unique summers that any of us has ever experienced. Like most of you, my family is not traveling this summer, and we are doing our best to enjoy the area where we live. And through all of it, we in MBUSD are working very hard to determine what learning will look like when we start school on August 26.

Over the last several weeks, many districts announced their plans for return with a “hybrid” model that follows county and local guidelines and allows for smaller groups of students on campus in order to maintain safe social distancing practices. Districts have also explained their plans for continuous cleaning and for determining how students and staff will enter and exit each site. Most districts also outlined a distance learning model for families who want or need that option too.

As most of you know, we have a steering committee and two large subcommittees reviewing all of the issues surrounding how we re-open schools (click here for information on those groups). Our committees have been working on hybrid and distance learning plans as well, but have held off on finalizing any decisions until the LA County Department of Public Health guidelines were published, which occurred on Monday. We are still diligently preparing a hybrid plan and distance learning plan, and we will be examining both options at our July 22 board meeting, and plans will be approved at the July 29 meeting.

In the last few days, there has been a lot of information released and many changes announced. Here in Manhattan Beach, and certainly across the county, COVID-19 infection and hospitalization rates are increasing. The fact that the United States is one of the worst trending nations in the world is most concerning, and in California, the Governor issued orders on Monday closing down a number of sectors that had been previously reopened. This week, there has also been so much news related to schools specifically. First we heard that both LAUSD and SDUSD are starting the year in distance learning, a big departure from their previously announced plans for hybrid learning. Next came a press conference from the LA County Department of Health and LACOE, which raised as many questions as it answered. This was quickly followed by the release of the LA County Department of Public Health guidelines , which contain detailed information about operational requirements for re-opening. Many districts, including Santa Ana, Santa Monica–Malibu, Beverly Hills, Culver City, Anaheim and more have followed the lead of the larger districts and have announced a distance learning model for the start of school. On a call I had with all superintendents from Los Angeles County today, nearly three quarters of the districts reported that they will be begin the year in full distance learning. And in a press briefing today, State Superintendent Tony Thurmond emphasized multiple times that the California Department of Education applauds districts' decision to start the year in a distance learning model, and said, "I do think that if school had to open tomorrow, most of our districts would open with distance learning, and that decision, I think, is a good one." Every district that has previously announced plans is being forced to reevaluate its proposal due to all of these unforeseen developments.

For MBUSD, please know that the charge of our steering committee to reopen schools remains exactly the same. We will continue to discuss how we will conduct distance learning, while also looking at options for elementary and secondary hybrid models where a portion of the students are on campus and other students are receiving distance learning . We are not discussing any plans where all students return to school at the same time, as that clearly does not meet the requirements set by the LA County Department of Public Health. I invite you to watch the discussion of each option at the Board’s July 22 meeting, and the presentation of a final recommendation at the Board's July 29 meeting.

I have received many emails urging us to open schools, and I have received many emails asking us to delay starting a hybrid model until we can ensure the safety of all students and staff. While there is no directive to close schools and go to distance learning only here in LA County, things are changing rapidly. As I told our steering committee yesterday, even if there is an order to go to distance learning, we still have to develop a solid model for hybrid learning to utilize when we can open schools.

I know the uncertainty is stressful for everyone. Right now, the only thing we all have control over is our own personal decisions to practice social distancing and to wear a mask. Please don't be part of the problem. Do your part every time you are around other people.

Whatever our plans, I am confident that we will begin the school year with an instructional model that will provide for strong teaching and learning, provide appropriate accountability and rigor, and set up structures to support students' academic and emotional needs. Thank you for your patience and support, and I will continue to communicate as we march toward August 26.

Mike Matthews, Ed.D.
Manhattan Beach Unified School District
325 S. Peck Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
(310)318-7345, x5900
[310-318-7345, x5902]  [mmathews@mbusd.org]  [www.mbusd.org]